Farming is among the top ten most dangerous occupations (and that includes hobby farming). It doesn’t matter if you’ve been farming since you were a child or if you’re a newbie—anyone can become injured when it’s least expected.
Below are scenarios to avoid and some farm safety tips.
In the Farm Kitchen
Canning and preserving fruit and veg is a given for the hobby farmer, but putting up your produce holds its own risks.
Vegetable slicers (also called mandolines) can create a nasty accident when used incorrectly. One slip is all it takes. Don’t rely on the hand-guard. It can be inadequate for certain veg sizes.
Use cut-proof gloves instead. These dishwasher safe gloves cost around $10—much cheaper than a trip to the ER!
When canning, make sure to use the correct tool for the job. A jar lifter is a must-have to insert and remove jars from the canner. These rubber-coated tongs are designed specifically for jars, clamping onto the tops safely and securely.
Never leave canners or cooking pots unattended.
Use heavy-duty oven gloves. Don’t use kitchen towels to handle hot pots and pans.
Wear shoes while cooking to protect your feet from hot spills or dropped knives. And keep pets out of the kitchen while you’re working. It’s not safe for them or for you. It’s easy to trip over a cat or dog or injure them with hot liquid or dropped equipment.
And if a flame-up occurs, don’t rely on water or other methods, such as flour, to extinguish a flame. Your safest bet is a kitchen fire extinguisher, which costs around $30. Have the extinguisher within reach of the stove and oven.
On the Farm
The fight or flight response is very strong in prey animals, so learn to understand an animal’s body language while working around them. That gentle giant of a draft horse is perfectly capable of kicking out, running over or crushing an unsuspecting person against a wall.
Geese defending a nest can give a nasty nip, and roosters happily employ their spurs when they feel threatened.
Don’t bend down between goats. Human heads don’t stand a chance against fighting and bunting goats.
Above all, always move quietly and confidently around your animals and give them space to move away from you if they feel threatened.
To protect your feet, wear closed-toed shoes or boots when around hoofed animals. It’s fine to wear sandals around poultry (though you may feel a peck or two).
Rollover Protection Structures (ROPS) and safe power takeoff shafts (PTO) are standard in new tractors, but might not be in older ones. An exposed PTO shaft is extremely dangerous and is one of the leading causes of serious injuries and fatalities on farms.
Clothing, hair and shoelaces can easily get caught in a spinning PTO shaft. Always turn off the tractor and stop the PTO before dismounting your tractor. Put a shield over all the components of the PTO, keep children away from the running tractor (that includes sitting on one or riding with the operator), and never step over or work around a rotating PTO shaft.
Fit a ROPS (the U-shaped bar behind the tractor seat) to your tractor. If that’s not possible, learn how to safely operate it. It’s important to know your tractor’s balancing limitations.
Use personal safety equipment, such as helmets, gloves, ear and eye protectors, and chainsaw pants. Avoid wearing shorts while using machinery, and always turn off equipment when not in use.
Bring your mobile phone with you at all times so you can call for help if you need it. And be sure to always tell someone where you’ll be working, what you’ll be doing and when you expect to be finished.
To avoid accidents, keep these farm safety basics in mind at all time:
- Use safety equipment
- Always concentrate on what you’re doing, whether you’re working in the kitchen, on the farm or around animals
- Use the right tool for the job at hand
- Never let yourself get complacent
Sidebar: Safety for Farm Kids
Most children brought up on hobby farms help with growing food and other chores, and it’s good for them to have that farm experience. But the farm can also be an especially hazardous place for kids.
Here are some tips to help little ones stay safe.
- In the kitchen, make sure pot handles are facing toward the back of the stove and away from curious hands.
- Know where the kids are at all times. Consider making age-appropriate no-go zones to keep youngsters away from hazardous places such as the stove, appliances/machinery in use and livestock areas. Consider posting signs in areas where children are not allowed to remind them to keep away.
- Always supervise visiting children, especially those with little or no farm experience.
- Store kid-friendly equipment in one area so children will know what’s OK to use and what’s not.
- Make sure each chore is age-appropriate, especially when using heavy-duty equipment such as tractors, quad-bikes and chainsaws. Remove all keys when not in use and store them where children cannot get to them.
- Consider enrolling your child in agricultural programs like 4-H and FFA.
And finally, always set a good example for your children by practicing farm safety yourself.